Next we will be printing entire libraries on the “head” of an atom.
A carbon nanotube that spins in a current of electrons, like a wind turbine in a breeze, could become the world’s smallest printer or shrink computer memory, UK researchers say.
The design is simple. A carbon nanotube 10 nanometres long and 1 nm wide is suspended between two others, its ends nested inside them to form a rotating joint. When a direct current is passed along the tubes, the central one spins around.
That design has as yet only been tested using advanced computer simulations by Colin Lambert and colleagues at Lancaster University, Lancashire, UK.
But Adrian Bachtold of the Catalan Institute for Nanotechnology, who was not involved in the work, intends to build the electron turbines and says it should be straightforward.
Researchers have made or designed a range of small-scale motors in recent years, using everything from DNA to light sensitive molecules to cell-transport proteins.
The Lancaster design is one of the simplest yet. Imagined applications for nanomotors range from shrinking optical communications components to new forms of computer memory.